Local residents collect donations for quake victims in Turkey

Disaster hits home for those here with personal connections

Two major February earthquakes that struck southern Turkey and were felt as far as northern Syria have made national headlines for the devastation they’ve wreaked, including the deaths of more than 40,000 people as of deadline, Feb. 23, according to the New York Times.

In South Jersey, residents have been raising funds and collecting donations for survivors. 

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Haddonfield Memorial High School juniors and twins Ben and Olivia Hansen collected donations last month on Kings Highway, raising $230 for the Red Cross and Red Crescent – the Turkish equivalent of the Red Cross. They also offered heart pins and candy to donors in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and displayed pictures of the devastation in Turkey.

“One picture that was very crazy to see, a lot of people stopped to talk to us about this picture of a map that showed the layout of if the earthquake hit the East Coast,” Olivia said. “It was circled and covered Delaware, Maryland, Washington (D.C.), New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

“To put it in that perspective, you realize how truly massive it really was …” she added. “If that happened here, that would be basically almost all of the East Coast.”

A desire to help has sparked both individual and group donation efforts. Haddonfield’s Rotary Club is collecting money for the nonprofit Shelterbox, which provides dwellings for people who have been displaced. 

In Cherry Hill, Gloucester City resident Susan Gumpper worked with a friend to coordinate collections at Tiger Schulmann Martial Arts Center last month.

Literally, we announced it I think on Thursday night, and maybe Friday morning, we had baby diapers, like boxes and boxes of it from Amazon,” said Gumpper, who was born in Turkey. “And that’s the beautiful thing about our students there. They’ve been with us for years and we’ve had connections and have been with each other for years. 

“… When one of us sees another one struggling, we’re just there to help out.”

Over the course of the week, Gumpper and her friend amassed nearly two full bins of items that were collected by the Turkish American Giresun Association in Mount Laurel and will be sent to Abhap, a leading relief organization in Turkey.

Seeing social media posts about the tragedies hit Gumpper harder than any other disaster she’s seen.

“You actually saw the person, whether it was crying or seeing someone being taken out of the rubble, and then you felt like you wanted to help or needed to help,” she pointed out. “And then after these people lost everything, they are in one of the harshest winters that Turkey has seen.”

Olivia and Ben Hansen also had a personal connection with a family friend who lived in Turkey and lost family members in the earthquakes. 

 “She has no place to show her family and friends, she has nowhere to bring them and say, ‘This is my home,’” Olivia revealed of a conversation with her friend. “That really struck me.”

One of Gumpper’s students, Amy James, is a Haddonfield Rotarian who will collect donations through Friday for the local Turkish Giresun Association. Donations can include diapers, baby formula, baby bottles, feminine hygiene products, personal-care items like new socks, underwear, hats, scarves, gloves and warm clothes. 

Donations can be dropped off at James’ office, 136 N. Haddon Ave., Haddonfield, next to Jersey Java. To learn more about Shelter Box, visit https://www.shelterboxusa.org/. To donate to Ahbap, visit https://ahbap.org/

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